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Colliding Criminal Conspiracies

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Evil's version of the peanut butter cup.

You know the saying "There's Always a Bigger Fish"? Well, it also applies to crime and criminals. When a story opens with a thief, kidnapper, or murderer "getting away with it" or proceeding with stage 3 of their 4 step plan, they may run into Colliding Criminal Conspiracies when they get entangled along with or caught in the traps of another, bigger or more professional criminal... or monster.

If they took some Innocent Bystanders for hostages, then both kidnapped and kidnappers are going to have to work together if they want to get out alive. Usually though, this threat is so grave they fast forward past Stockholm Syndrome and/or Lima Syndrome and develop true loyalty for each other that can last a lifetime. If they survive, that is.

This isn't to say all is forgiven and the criminals turn over a new leaf and make them truly sympathetic by pitting them against a truly worse adversary. Quite the contrary, they might show that they're really rotten by showing that after their need for Teeth-Clenched Teamwork has passed, they plan to kill their former kidnap victims, and/or by using the hostages as Human Shields and dying thanks to their stupidity. Good riddance to that Asshole Victim. Interestingly, both of the above can exist in the same story if one criminal repents and the other doesn't.

Likely candidates for conspiracies to collide into are: Arriving at the home of Mad Scientist, Cannibal Tribe, or some sort of monster. One especially deliciously ironic variant is to unwittingly kidnap a monster. Due to the high stakes, expect the protagonists (both kidnapped and kidnappers) to have to choose between leaving the loot and living, or getting the gold and potentially dying. Compare Unintentionally Notorious Crime, which might overlap.

See also: Gambit Pileup, Big Bad Ensemble, Enemy Civil War, Heist Clash. Contrast Nebulous Criminal Conspiracy, where seemingly unrelated crimes are actually all connected.


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    Comic Books 
  • This is the big reveal in Bookhunter. Two different thieves, acting completely independently, plot to steal a valuable book. The first thief leaves a replica in the original's place, and the second thief steals the replica. It's only after solving the mystery of the second theft that the police realize that the first theft happened at all.
  • In the The Flash storyline "Crossfire", the Rogues launch their long-planned takeover of Keystone City... only to have the Thinker choose the same time to launch his own attack on Central City and the battle of the two forces allows the Flash to defeat them both.
  • The Punisher: Suicide Run: When The Punisher is arrested and held in the little town of Laastekist, the town finds itself in the middle of a war zone when everyone who's out to get Frank sets their foot in there. This includes the FBI, fellow vigilantes, the VIGIL organization, The Mafia, a biker gang, and various smaller criminals.
  • One Justice League of America story begins with seven Supervillains all hitting on the same "attack the White House" scheme at once and promptly get into a huge fight over who thought of it first. The JLA arrives to find the bad guys beating each other up and pretty much just stand back to watch.
  • Spider-Man: In one arc, Hobgoblin frames Flash Thompson for the crimes the former committed as part of his current evil plan. This plan goes to hell when three other supervillains — Jack O'Lantern, Scourge, and the Wraith — attack the police precinct that Thompson is being detained at for their own reasons at the same time, tallying up to four criminal conspiracies colliding into a total clusterfuck.

    Fan Works 
  • Agent Carter: Phantom Pain is a tangled web full of these. The criminal factions are pushed by Joseph Manfredi (who wants to protect Whitney along with his usual organized crime), the Council of Nine (trying to keep their control of American Society after Whitney's mess), Cassandra Romulus (the same HYDRA power play, as well as obtain an ancient doomsday relic), Whitney Frost (who's still trying to master the Zero Matter), Michael Carter (who killed Thompson and is acting as a rogue agent from British Intelligence), and the FBI (who simply want to stop Peggy and her team at every corner). By the halfway point they've all interfered with each other in some way.
    • Manfredi's operations lend their help to Peggy after they determine Manfredi is in danger.
    • Cassandra Romulus kills the Council of Nine (aside from those loyal to her) and turns out to have the feds in her pocket already.
    • Whitney Frost is possessed by the Zero Matter itself and does...something to Manfredi.
  • A Thing of Vikings: Turns out that the assassination attempt during Drago's wedding day was done by three separate factions who did not know about each other and got in each other's way.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • From Dusk Till Dawn: Two gunmen brothers kidnap a preacher and his children, only to take refuge in a brothel/strip joint infested with vampires.
  • House on Haunted Hill:
    • In House on Haunted Hill (1999) (the remake), the host and his wife are planning their own roundabout ways to kill each other during the party. Shame it should just happen that the house really is haunted, and filled with exceedingly sadistic and powerful ghosts.
    • The original movie also plays with this trope as the host and his wife in this film are planning to kill each other as well. The host succeeds.
  • The Last Heist is about a Bank Robbery that takes place at the same time that a Serial Killer who likes to carve out and collect his victims' eyes happens to be in the building to retrieve his 'trophies' from the vault. It also turns into a Hostage Situation when the police catch on to the robbery taking place. And then it's revealed that several corrupt SWAT team members are also after the loot.
  • The French movie The Nest 2002 has a great example of this. A big warehouse complex is being used as a hideout by some fairly mundane thieves but ends up as the site for a huge battle between terrorists and a good-guy military squad.
  • Psycho starts with the downplayed case of a secretary impulsively running off with several thousand dollars and ending up in the Bates Motel. Things end poorly for her and she never leaves.
    • Likewise, Psycho II features a more straightforward albeit still downplayed example of Lila Loomis' and Mrs. Spool's competing agendas: in the former case, to drive a mentally-recovered Norman Bates back into murderous insanity and get him recommitted to the asylum before he can harm anyone again, in the latter case to protect Norman from persecution and suspicion by murdering his enemies and revealing herself to him as his loving "mother" (Mrs. Spool seems to prevail against Lila, only to find out in turn that Evil Is Not a Toy and Norman himself may not share the exact same Happily Ever After scenario she had in mind).
      • Also, Norman firing Pat Toomey for his sleazy, illegal activities (renting out rooms for drug use, prostitution, and underage sex) while managing the Bates Motel in his absence causes Toomey to nurse a grudge against Norman and begin hassling him, proving an annoyance to Lila's accomplice and daughter, Mary, while ultimately putting him in the protective Mrs. Spool's crosshairs as her first onscreen victim.
    • Psycho III features attempted rapist and overall slimeball Duane Duke attempting to blackmail Norman after finding employment at the Bates Motel and uncovering evidence of his Mommy Issues (to put it mildly), only to realize he got himself into more than he bargained for by Bullying a Dragon.
  • Curtains: Samantha seeks revenge and shoots her former collaborator Stryker and the woman who was sleeping with him to obtain the main role in Audra originally intended for her before Stryker abandoned her in an insane asylum, but in so doing runs afoul of the even more unhinged Patti's own plot to break into dramatic acting and land the same role by offing the other contenders for the part and anyone else who stands in the way of her ambitions.
  • Splinter: A married couple is taken hostage by a couple of criminals. During a pit stop for gas, they're attacked by a horrible parasitic monster that infects whatever it attacks.
  • In Whisper, a band of kidnappers discovers the child they've abducted is very, very much not a normal little boy.
  • In The Usual Suspects, a bunch of would-be robbers ends up stealing from and in the pockets of a much more sinister crime lord. The only reason they were kept alive is that they didn't realize who they were stealing from at the time of the robbery and they are forced to repay with another crime.
  • The plot of Snatch. is driven by a variety of criminals vying over a diamond, intersecting with Irish Travelers clashing with an underground boxing promoter.
  • Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels is the intersection of four lowlifes trying to pay off a gambling debt, a group of thugs stealing from a black gang's pot-growing operation, and a crime lord ordering the theft of some valuable muskets.
  • Played with in Hard Rain where a fairly simple plotline about a bunch of criminals trying to rob an armoured truck becomes more complicated when the local law enforcement decide to steal the cash themselves and the van's guard and the lead robber end up in an Enemy Mine.
  • Worst case yet must be Deep Rising, where a Gambit Pileup has a thief, mercenaries on their way to a heist, a transport crew hired by those mercenaries willing to look the other way, a captured cruise ship run by a guy attempting to pull off an insurance scam, and a pack of sea monsters that are actually just the tentacles of a larger sea monster.
  • Malevolence is about a group of bank robbers who accidentally wind up inside the house of a psychotic murderer.
  • The Collector (2009) has a man who tries to rob a house's safe and encounters a serial killer who broke into the place before he did.
  • Scarecrows features a robbery of the Camp Pendleton payroll which goes wrong when the robbers have to land in a field filled with evil scarecrows.
  • Fatal Instinct: Both Ravine's unfaithful wife Lana and released convict Max Shady plot to kill him on the same train ride. Lana ends up shooting Shady by mistake because he also wears Ravine's trademark blue suit.
  • Man on Fire had this as the cause of the main plot. The ransom drop-off went horribly wrong because several groups got too greedy. Aside from the Voice and his gang (the actual kidnappers), a group of cops tried to steal the ransom money for themselves, as well as the victim's family lawyer stealing half the ransom as it was being transported. Creasy ends up unraveling the plots of each group as he hunts each of them down and kills them.
  • Theyre Playing With Fire starts off as a movie where a married couple plan to drive the husband's mother and grandmother away from their home mansion with help from a high school student. Then a guy in a ski-mask starts killing people around the place.
  • The Neighbor: A couple of drug runners discover that their neighbor runs a kidnapping-for-ransom operation next door.
  • The film Flypaper has two robber gangs (a couple of Stupid Crooks and somewhat more competent commando-type thieves and it's eventually revealed that a famous cat burglar had been working on the inside for a while prior as a cashier) barging into a bank and taking the people inside hostage while they try to rob different parts of it (after a while of going through a Mexican Standoff and then declaring "This Is My Side, this is your side")... and then it turns out that they were both baited into robbing the bank on the same day by a criminal mastermind Chessmaster that wanted to use all of them as chaff for his own heist (and the murder of a Dirty Cop accomplice that had outlived his usefulness) and kill everybody afterwards.
  • Lake Bodom: Four teenagers decide to go camping near lake Bodom, where murders took place in 1960. Two of them are plotting to kill the other half of the group and make them disappear but, unbeknownst to them, they are being stalked by a genuine psycho killer...
  • Frontier(s): Bunch of French thieves exploit riots to perform a heist and then hide in a hotel in the French countryside... that is the home of a Cannibal Clan in the vein of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
  • Don't Breathe: A group of hapless thieves learns the hard way that the blind old man they're planning to rob is actually a deranged rapist/murderer, and they've just interrupted his attempts to produce an heir.
  • The Silent Partner centers around a bank teller taking advantage of a botched bank robbery to steal some money himself and pin it on the robber, only for the robber to decide that if he's been accused of stealing the money, he might as well get it for real.
  • Monty Python's Life of Brian: The People's Front of Judea breaks into Pilate's palace, planning to kidnap his wife and hold her hostage to make the Romans withdraw from Judea. They run into another rival group of Jewish rebels who have the same plan. Brian briefly tries to convince them to team up but fails, and the two groups kill each other and the commotion attracts the guards, who capture Brian as the only survivor.
  • Nite Tales: The Movie: In the short story "Karma", a crew of bank robbers accidentally arrive to the home of a Cannibal Clan during their getaway from a heist. For further karmic points, the cannibals are family of a guard the robbers killed in the heist, and thus want the robbers to die screaming a lot more than usual.


    Live-Action TV 
  • In Babylon Berlin the Berlin mob (who want to plunder some gold) and the Black Reichswehr (who are planning a Military Coup against the Weimar government) run into each other multiple times and nearly end up wiping each other out.
  • Happens a couple of times with rival spy agencies on Alias. Most notable in the early seasons with Sark and his "flexible loyalties." Most of his plans started with big successes, only for him to get caught or entwined in another spy's scheme. He'd then switch sides or at least pretend to, evoking a very temporary truce. Even the finale showed that his tendency to let whoever's conspiracy he collided with taking precedence allowed him to be the only Big Bad to survive.
  • The second season of Bosch. The season starts with Harry Bosch and Jerry Edgar investigating the death of a mob-affiliated porn producer found in his trunk on Mulholland Drive, who turns out to have stolen money from his cousin in Las Vegas. Concurrent to this, Deputy Chief Irvin Irving's son George is infiltrating a ring of corrupt cops who turn out to have been the ones who committed the murder that Bosch is investigating. It culminates in a climactic shootout at the end of episode 8 between the corrupt cops and the Armenians coming to collect Tony Allen's money.
  • In the Columbo episode "A Bird in the Hand," Harold McCain tries to kill his rich uncle with a car bomb, a plan that goes badly awry when Big Fred's Trophy Wife kills him first in a hit-and-run.
  • Daredevil (2015): Season 1 sees Wilson Fisk running a criminal empire that controls Hell's Kitchen. Two of his partners, Madame Gao and Nobu, are members of the Hand, a shadow syndicate that are using Fisk's clout and influence to buy property in Hell's Kitchen for their own agendas.
  • Person of Interest features two sets: the various power battles for control of New York's criminal underworld and the conflict over control of The Machine. From time to time, the two sets will intersect for an even bigger collision. The series ends with both of the crime dons that were part of the major cast buying the farm because they — evil or morally grey — didn't really have the understanding or firepower to deal with something as powerful as the Samaritan conspiracy when it decided to "purge" them.
  • WandaVision: The finale sees Wanda Maximoff taking on Agatha Harkness (who wants to take her magic for herself) and SWORD agents led by Tyler Hayward (who wants to kill her to cover up his illegal resurrection of Vision).
  • Leverage:
    • "The Bank Shot Job", the team's attempt to take down the corrupt Judge Roy hits a snag when Nate, Sophie and the judge are taken hostage in a bank by a father and son duo. It is then revealed that the duo are only robbing the bank because the mother has been taken hostage by drug dealers the boy owes money to. And then Roy, getting wise to the fact that Sophie and Nate are trying to con him, gets his hands on a gun and becomes the hostage taker.
    • "The Rashomon Job" reveals that all five members of the team were present in the same place years before they all teamed up. While Nate was still an insurance investigator at the time while Parker, Eliot, Hardison and Sophie were each trying to steal a valuable dagger from a museum for their own reasons while unaware of each other's goals. Between Nate's investigation and the commotion caused by the four thieves, it is revealed that the dagger's owner had actually sold it and replaced it with a fake as part of an insurance scam.

    Video Games 
  • Sonic Adventure 2: Tails and Amy infiltrate Prison Island in order to free Sonic who has been captured by G.U.N.. At the same time, Dr. Eggman, Shadow and Rogue also infiltrate the island to steal the Chaos Emeralds G.U.N. has in their possession. The two sides end up clashing, unaware of each other's true motives other than that they happen to be at the same place through coincidence.

  • Girl Genius: Just within the Order of the Knights of Jove there are multiple conflicting conspiracies against the heroes that lead to villains slaughtering each other. There's also the murderous ambitious Queen of Dawn who is being hunted by those loyal to the Other, and started out as the Order's fake Heterodyne.

    Web Original 
  • In The Gamer's Alliance, the Nightstalkers end up entangled in the complex rival plots of Matheson Crime Family, the Order of the Black Rose and the Totenkopf cult, all of which take place in Maar Sul City. The gang tries to make the most out of it in the dangerous environment but does suffer quite a bit along the way because they simply aren't powerful enough to upstage the other influential factions in their own game.
  • Mega64 Version 3: The antagonistic organization Falz is afraid of a group of incredibly dangerous assassins they call The Killers. It shortly turns out that the Mega64 gang has had run-ins with members of The Killers before.

    Western Animation 
  • Evil Con Carne: This trope was the reason Hector decided to start the League of Destruction. It only helps to make all the criminal masterminds butt heads directly at the same time which leaves his island ruined, all the villains passed out and a very perplexed invading security force.